In 1980, the team of Jim Abrahams and brothers David Zucker and Jerry Zucker scored a massive hit with the film “Airplane!.” It combined elements of satire and parody with deadpan performances, and a constant barrage of puns. The humor could range from low-class toilet humor, to slapstick, to deceptively smart. It also got them working with Leslie Nielsen who would later work with the ZAZ trio on “The Naked Gun” trilogy. While that franchise hasn’t seen another entry in nearly 30 years, it looks like it’s finally being rebooted, and starring an Irish actor with a “very particular set of skills.”
“The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!” Is actually the full name of the first film. It is called such because the movie is actually a reimagining of the short lived series, “Police Squad!” that aired on ABC for six episodes in the spring and summer of 1982. The ZAZ writing team had not only given themselves a high dose of credibility thanks to the success of “Airplane!” but also revitalized the career of Nielsen. Before his turn as Dr. Rumack in the airplane disaster parody, Nielsen was primarily a dramatic actor. It’s kind of fitting in a way that the person taking up the leading role in the new film will be Liam Neeson.
Neeson is obviously not known as a comedic actor. This is so well noted that the program “Life’s Too Short” made fun of this with Neeson trying to practice improvisational comedy.
Both Nielsen and Neeson are able to play deadpan so well, that putting them into comedic situations can actually work if done correctly. That’s something the writing team of ZAZ knew, which is why they threw so many random and ridiculous situations at Nielsen, because they knew that it played well to his comedic strengths. Neeson could potentially pull the same thing off with the correct writing and direction. Incidentally, that team is set to be the same one that brought us 2022’s, “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” film.
Akiva Schaffer is set to direct, with a script written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand. Reports indicate Neeson may not be playing the same character that Nielsen did. He may actually be instead playing Frank Drebin’s son. If that’s the case, it could open the door for Priscilla Presley to return, as she played Drebin’s girlfriend (and later wife) Jane. She’s also the only main cast member from the original films to still be alive, and not a convicted felon like O.J. Simpson. Leslie Nielsen passed away in 2010, and his co-star George Kennedy passed in 2016. Kennedy played Captain Ed Hocken in the series. On a more light-hearted note though, all three films also had cameo appearances from “Weird” Al Yankovic, so any excuse to get him to appear in this reboot would be welcome.
As of the time of this writing, the project has not been officially greenlit by Paramount, but it’s suspected that it will be after they close the deal with Neeson. There is some legitimate potential for this film revival to be successful given the talent behind the camera. As long as they give Liam the right material to work with, this could be a strong follow-up to that wacky ZAZ brand of humor that combined the deadpan reactions with non-sequitur absurdities. Though trying to top that baseball sequence in the first movie is going to be a nigh impossible feat.
“The Naked Gun” is available to stream on Paramount+. “Airplane!” is available to stream on HBO Max.